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Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100-400 Paperback – 1984

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

How did the early Christian church manage to win its dominant place in the Roman world? In his newest book, an eminent historian of ancient Rome examines this question from a secular-rather than an ecclesiastical-viewpoint. MacMullen's provocative conclusion is that mass conversions to Christianity were based more on the appeal of miracle or the opportunity for worldly advantages then simply on a 'rising tide of Christian piety.'

About the Author

Ramsay MacMullen, Dunham Professor Emeritus of Classics and History at Yale University, is CEO of PastTimes Press and the recipient of a lifetime Award for Scholarly Distinction from the American Historical Association. He is also the author of "Voting About God in Early Church Councils," "Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, Corruption and the Decline of Rome, Paganism in the Roman Empire, "and "Roman Social Relations, "all published by Yale University Press.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300036426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300036428
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Ramsay MacMullen, the author of Christianizing the Roman Empire, is the Dunham Professor of History and Classics at Yale University. On January 5, of 2001 he was the recipient of a lifetime Award for Scholarly Distinction from the American Historical Association. The citation begins, "Ramsay MacMullen is the greatest historian of the Roman Empire alive today." Obviously the author is eminently qualified for his research for this work.

Christianity grew dramatically from the day of Pentecost to the year 400 through mass conversations. At the end of the first century, the church held a minimal significance in Roman society. It simply "did not count." Within three centuries it included ten percent of the population and had displaced the other religions of the empire. In Christianizing the Roman Empire MacMullen addresses the factors for this amazing growth. The author demonstrates that these mass conversions first came through the power of miracles and later through the social advantage of becoming a Christian. As such, MacMullen is diminishing the value of Christian piety and the testimony of martyrs as reasons for the mass evangelization.

The book is divided into two sections, which are the times prior to 312 and after 312 (Constantine's "conversion" in 312 and the Edict of Milan in 313). He first examines what Pagans of the culture believed. Then he looks at what Christians presented to the Pagans about this new faith, and how they presented it. The influence of Constantine is examined, as are the non-religious factors that led to conversions. MacMullen then looks at evangelical campaigns after 312, including the conversion of intellectuals. Finally he looks at the quality of the conversions and those that were won through coercion.
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Format: Paperback
MacMullen's portraits of how people of the Empire became "Christians" are indelible -- and possibly, to some, disturbing. His account of how masses, crowds, throngs -- were "converted" to Christianity at the same time, on the same occasion, is riveting and thought-provoking. MacMullen describes too the very real, "everyday," yet typically, today, minimized, way miracles led to conversion and the Christianizing of the Roman Empire. Indeed, MacMullen's assessment (buttressed by his nearly exclusive reliance on primary sources) of what conversion meant in the first centuries after Christ is the heart of the book. MacMullen deploys indefatigable erudition (don't shrug off the footnotes: they contain some of the best writing in the book) and expresses himself with style, even grace, a thoughtful man writing authoritatively -- if at times iconoclastically -- about a crucial passage in the development of Christianity and rise of the West.
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By A Customer on January 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am delighted with this book because it presents the facts
about early christianity without going into a diatribe in
some particular direction. This is a book about the documented
history of christianity -- not pro christian dogma and not
anti-christian diatribe. While documentation is not the end
of every possible controversy (in fact the book brings up new
questions) it is at least helpful to know what information can
in fact be found -- and to know what is not to be found.
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Format: Paperback
Many of the reviews below are excellent, so this will be short. Throughout, the book bases its arguments solely on evidence of which there is a paucity for this time period. MacMullens strength however is beyond the examination of the evidence. He appears to set aside any attempt to spiritualize this time period or romanticize the practice of Xianity therein. Some his statements are surprising (e.g., that ater Paul, there is virtually no evidence of itinerant evangelism explicitly aimed at UNbelievers/ NONchristians), and most of these are arguments from silence though very probable in light of other evidence. Overall, this work is thorough, concise, and respectable. It achieves an examination of the early Christian faith as history while repudiating any attempts to use the primitive faith as a modern pulpit from which to preach. The book is quite concise, but its contents are so pithy as to prove to be an inspiration and guide for much further investigation.
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Ramsey MacMullen has much to offer contemporary scholarship on the much-discussed and always open-ended problem of Christianization in the Roman Empire. MacMullen systematically renders an insightful overview of the different transitions in the process of Christianization as follows: first the period from New Testament evangelism (as found in the Epistles and the Acts) to Constantine's conversion, and the period following after the emperor's conversion all the way to AD 407. MacMullen does not discount the more customary viewpoints held by scholars such as Edward Gibbon and J.B. Bury, or, for that matter, traditional ecclesiastical interpretation as well; he does add to them though; and this is his most remarkable feat. He manages to maintain a balance between the secular and the ecclesiastical, in turn offering food-for-thought for all readers. Ramsey MacMullen's work deserves praise and possible precedence even over the renowned scholar Peter Brown's works, which bear a similarity to R.M.'s but lack the same objectivity. While his style of prose is a bit unseasonable and skewed at times, the work, overall, will undoubtedly come as a relief and reward to anyone yet to be familiar with it.
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